A huge operation led by the ROS unit of the Carabinieri police saw 169 arrests of people suspected of involvement in the 'Ndrangheta mafia in several Italian regions and in Germany on Tuesday, sources said.
At least 5 000 restaurants in Italy are in the hands of organised crime groups, the country's biggest agricultural association Coldiretti said on Tuesday.
Italy's 'ndrangheta has increasingly eclipsed the Cosa Nostra in power and wealth, infiltrating all sectors of Italian economic and political life and spreading out from its base in Calabria to Rome, Milan and beyond.
Some 10 public officials were among those arrested, including three local mayors in the Calabrian province of Crotone, according to state broadcaster RAI News 24.
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The raid targeted the Farao-Marincola clan, allegedly operating in Calabria, but also in the Lazio region surrounding Rome, and in the northern Emilia, Veneto and Lombardy regions.
Eleven of the suspects, aged 36 to 61, were detained in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Hessen and North Rhine-Westphalia on accusations of blackmailing and money laundering, German police said. And they said that Italian restaurants in Germany, meanwhile, were forced to import Italian wine, olive oil and other goods from a clan-controlled Italian restaurant association. The Farao-Marincola clan had infiltrated businesses in both Italy and Germany particularly those involved in wine, food, garbage collection and funeral services.
Numerous 160 arrest warrants - issued for mafia association, attempted murder, money laundering, extortion and illegal weapons - targeted suspects already serving time for other crimes. The BBC reports that the faction was plotting to expand into neighboring Switzerland.
Nicola Grattari, the Italian prosecutor in charge of the investigation, described the arrests as the most important step taken against the 'Ndrangehta in the last two decades.